At a time when declining state funding has pushed the University to increase tuition by more than 5 percent in six of the last seven years, the University’s top academic administrator is building a committee aimed at letting students have their say in how the University spends its money.
Provost Teresa Sullivan said in an interview last month that the Student Budget Advisory Committee will be comprised of graduate and undergraduate students and will meet with her periodically to discuss budgetary issues affecting students, including increases to tuition costs and student fees.
Sullivan, who came to Ann Arbor from the University of Texas System two years ago, has created several committees to bring the suggestions, ideas and opinions of students into the decision-making process. It’s a strategy she brought with her from the University of Texas, where she created several student and faculty committees as Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
“I think it’s important for us,” Sullivan said about the importance of getting input through committees. “Kind of keeps us grounded.”
The new committee is a student-focused version of the Faculty Budget Advisory Committee, which Sullivan formed in 2006 to get faculty input on financial issues. For students, she has also created the Provost’s Student Advisory Committee and the Provost’s Student Leadership Board.
She said she expects the budget committee to include about a dozen students “who would have an intellectual interest in the budget.” That might include students who are studying business and organizational studies, or those who might be considering a career in higher education.
Sullivan said she has received about 30 nominations for the committee to date, with the bulk coming from faculty and student organizations like the Michigan Student Assembly and deans’ offices. The Provost’s office is asking that any nominations be turned in by today.
LSA senior Sabrina Shingwani, the president of MSA, said she meets with Sullivan several times each month. She said the provost’s openness to students will let the assembly represent students by helping craft important University policies.
“What Provost Sullivan is doing with the Budget Committee is exactly in line with what our goals are,” she said. “We want to increase student participation in administrative decisions.”
Shingwani said Sullivan first approached her last spring about the committee when she asked if there was a way to get more student input for budgetary matters. The committee is expected to have its first meeting toward the end of October.
When asked if she had any other student-oriented committees in mind, Sullivan laughed.
“Right now, I think that’s going to be enough,” she said.